Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), the sea monster of the Maya
The Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas) can reach a length between 260 – 350cm and a weight of 316.5 kg and its bite is considered the most powerful of any species of shark. It is cosmopolitan in all tropical and subtropical seas, visiting estuaries, ports, inlets, and penetrating freshwater streams. It is the only shark capable of tracing great distances in rivers -3700 Kilometers- from the sea and also, it can inhabit estuaries and fresh waters, such as rivers and lakes, as in, Lago Nicaragua, Nicaragua, and Lake Izabal, Guatemala. Although they seem not to be able to subsist for life and establish populations in those places. But, why can the bull shark adapt to fresh waters? Sulbarán (2017) mentions that “the kidneys, liver and rectal gland of bull sharks can gradually adjust to the salinity of the water in which they are found. When they move into freshwater, their kidneys remove less salt and more urea from the bloodstream through their urine, which is seen as the reverse of the osmoregulation commonly experienced by these animals.”
What is very interesting too is that many representations and remains of sharks have been found in Mesoamerican art and archaeology from the first millennium BC onwards; and even the Maya word xook (pronounced ‘shok’), has been proposed as the origin of the English term, as you can find in the research of Sarah Newman “Sharks in the jungle: real and imagined sea monsters of the Maya”.
You can continue learning more about this amazing shark with the bibliography we prepared for you.
Most helpful articles on this shark
Most helpful web sites on this the Bull Shark,
References Cited and Suggested Reading on the Bull Shark, Carcharhinus leucas
- La ictiofauna del Refugio de Vida Silvestre Bocas del Polochic y la cuenca del lago de Izabal: composición, distribución y ecología. Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, La Ciencia y La Cultura. Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala.
- Plan de Manejo Regional para el Manatí Antillano, Trichechus manatus
- Sharks. In: Fishes of the Western North Atlantic: Lancelets, Cyclostomes, Sharks. Part 1. The Yale Peabody Museum. 576 pages.
- Age and growth estimates of the bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, from the northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Biology of Fishes volume 20, pages169–181.
- The Life of Sharks. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London. pp 136-145.
Includes an excellent chapter on the world-wide distribution freshwater sharks, including the Bull Shark.
- The Fresh-Water Shark in Nicaragua. Natl. Geogr. Soc. Res. Rep., 1970 Proj.: 53-63.
- Age and Growth of the Bull Shark, Carcharhinus leucas, from Southern Gulf of Mexico. J. Northw. Atl. Fish. Sci., Vol. 35: 367–374.
- Áreas de crianza de tiburones en la plataforma continental del Pacífico de Guatemala: Herramienta para el manejo y aprovechamiento sostenido del recurso tiburón. Proyecto FONDECYT. 68 pages.
- Utilidad de la biodiversidad como indicador de sostenibilidad para la evaluación de la calidad ambiental de la Costa Este del Pacífico de Guatemala. Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala. Programa Universitario de Investigación. Recursos Naturales y Medio Ambiente. 169 pages.
Page 118 mentions the groups of sharks in the Pacific East Cost in Guatemala.
- Tiburones, rayas y quimeras de México. CONABIO. Biodiversitas, 111:1-6
Very helpful. Photographs are large enough to be useable. But shows only a fraction of the sharks; surely there are more that are pictured.
- An Inventory of the Geographical Distribution and Conservation Status of Marine Turtles and Sharks in the Wider Caribbean and Relationship to Fisheries. Commissioned by WWF-MAR. 173 pages.
- Plan Maestro refugio de vida silvestre Bocas del Polochic II Plan Maestro 2003-2007. Guatemala. Guatemala. 101 pages.
The bull shark appears (Carcharhinus leucas) on page 18
- Notes on Invasion of Fresh Water by Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico, with Special Reference to the Mississippi-Atchafalya River System. Copeia, 1938(2): 69-72.
- The Surface of the Underwaterworld Iconography of the Gods of Early Classic Maya art in Peten, Guatemala. revised English original of PhD. Dissertation (submitted and accepted 1986). Vol. 1, 306 pages (text). Vol. 2, 255 pages (about 199 pages of line drawings, more than half done specifically for this PhD dissertation).
I call this “e” because it is English. I call the other edition “d” for Deutsch. I sincerely appreciate Suzanna Reisinger, my helpful trilingual and multi-cultural Swiss-Austrian (Liechtenstein) girlfriend for translating the zillion pages of my dissertation into German.
- Monster und Menschen in der Maya-Kunst. 2000 Jahre Kultur aus dem tropischen Urwald. ADEVA, Akademische Druck u. Verlagsanstalt, Graz, Austria. 403 pages 727 illustrations.
This is the coffee table book edition of the PhD dissertation a year earlier at Karl-Franzens Universitaet, Graz, Austria.
- The Xoc, the Shark, and the Sea Dogs: An Historical Encounter. In Fifth Palenque Round Table, 1983, Vol. VII, ed. Virginia M. Fields, pp.
His bibliography is impressive. Either he has a gigantic personal research library or his university has a comfortable reading room in it’s libraries.
At least one other scholar (Newman 2016) has found the use of the word shark in the English language before the British sailors reached Mesoamerica. But linguistic research on the word Xoc in Mayan languages is essential irrespective of whether it is the origin of the English word shark. The Spanish word is tiburon, so not suggested to be from local Mayan languages.
- Jaws II: Return of the Xoc. 6th Palenque Round Table, 1986.
Tom Jones has written many additional articles on the Xoc glyph in Maya hieroglyphic writing. His 1985 opus has the most material, but if you are an epigrapher you can find lots more if you Google Tom Jones, Xoc hieroglyph. The present bibliography is on the Bull Shark in rivers and lakes, inland from the Caribbean Sea.
- Provisional Audiogram for the Shark, Carcharhinus leucas. Science, 133: 1480-1482.
- Caracterización de la pesquería de tiburón en el norte de Quintana Roo, México. Ciencia Pesquera, número especial 24: 153-156.
- Sharks in the jungle: real and imagined sea monsters of the Maya. Antiquity 90 354 (2016): 1522–1536.
Newman may be one of the first individuals to point out that the word shark was already used in the English language in 1442.
- Acuario y Centro de Investigaciones Marinas en Livingston, Izabal.
- Crocodiles, sharks, and some speculations on central Petén Preclassic history. Ancient Mesoamerica, 18 pages.
Remarkable concept of an entire Maya city layout being patterned after a crocodile. The drawing of the crocodile by Don Rice (Figure 2) is one of the best I have seen. I estimate it’s a digital rendering?
- Estudio sobre la Pesquería del Tiburón en Guatemala. Unidad Especial de Ejecución para la Pesca y la Acuicultura.
- Food Habits, Occurrence, and Population Structure of the Bull Shark, Carcharhinus Leucas, in Florida Coastal Lagoons. Bulletin of Marine Science, Volume 34, Number 1, pp. 71-80(10).
- The bull shark, Carcharhinus leucus (Valenciennes, 1841), from The Usumacinta River Tabasco, Mexico, with notes on its serum composition and osmolarity. Ciencias Marinas (1998) 24(2): 183-192.
El tiburón chato, Carcharhinus leucus (valenciennes, 1841), del río Usumacinta, Tabasco, México, con notas sobre la composición de su suero sanguíneo y osmolaridad.
English in one column. Spanish in the other column.
- The Bull Shark, Carcharhinus leucas, from the Upper Mississippi River Near Alton, Illinois. Copeia, 1977(1): 166-168.
- Sharks and sawfish in the Lake Izabal-Rio Dulce System. Guatemala. Copeia Vol. 1966, No. 3, pages 620-622.
- Movement of Bull Sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, between Caribbean Sea and Lake Nicaragua Demonstrated by Tagging. Copeia, Vol. 1971, No. 2, pp. 336-338
- Investigations of the Ichthyofauna of Nicaraguan Lakes. University of Nebraska, Lincoln. 663 pp.
- Age, Growth and longevity of Carcharhinus leucas Estimated from Tagging and Vertebral Rings. Copeia, 1982(1): 110-116.
Helpful web sites for any and all creatures of the Caribbean
There are several web sites that are helpful even though not of a university or botanical garden or government institute.
However most popular web sites are copy-and-paste (a polite way of saying that their authors do not work out in the field). Many of these web sites are click bait (they make money when you buy stuff in the advertisements that are all along the sides and in wide banners also. So we prefer to focus on web sites that have reliable information.
El tiburón toro, la extraordinaria especie capaz de habitar en aguas dulces y saladas (y está en América), Patricia Sulbarán Lovera, BBC Mundo, 2017.
Web sites specifically on the Bull Shark, Carcharhinus leucas
This article talks about the capacity to habit in fresh water and saltwater
Information and distribution map
Description, common names, distribution and general information
Photos and map distribution